Rather than Verse’s traditional graduate Interview, Annabel Bowles chatted to someone who’s found their calling without that piece of parchment. In fact, embroidery unexpectedly came to Shalina Furtado on a Spotlight trip with her mum; now four years later, it’s knitted into her busy life as a third-year clinical exercise physiology student.
When did you first start stitching?
I started just after Year 12, so about four years ago now. At Spotlight one day I saw a hoop and all this fabric and said to mum ‘What’s this?’ and she’s like ‘Oh you can stitch stuff’, so I was like ‘Whatever, I’ll try it.’ The first thing I made was this really dodgy hoop of plants, but I liked it. It was therapeutic.
Have you always been interested in art?
Yeah, but when I was in Year 11 and 12 I didn’t really know what I wanted to do at uni. I thought I wanted to do graphic design or something to do with art, because I used to really like doing watercolour portraiture – like realism more than anything. I’ve always liked painting.
At what point did embroidery turn from a hobby to a side gig?
Well I did media in my first year of uni, but stopped because it wasn’t really for me. Then I had a semester off and started sewing a bit more. I sold a few earrings and there were bits and pieces between now and then, but this year it took off after someone I hadn’t met asked me for a commissioned shirt. I’m now taking it a bit more seriously, not to make money but to motivate me to make more things.
What do you love about stitching?
It’s really therapeutic for me, and to be honest, I haven’t painted or drawn since I started embroidering. I don’t really know why. I think there’s more you can do with stitching, and I’m actually not very creative in the sense that I can’t really think of my own designs. When I was painting and drawing all I would do was look at a photo and paint it, as it was. But I can do more with embroidery; like hoops, clothes and bags, as well as make earrings.
What do you normally like to stitch?
I do a lot of animals and nature, but I try not to do the same thing all the time; like I always just want to do a snake or a tiger. I try not to do too many floral embroideries too, because there’s just hundreds and hundreds of those on Pinterest. But it’s usually animals, nature, and lately, plants; the perfect thing for those who can’t keep their real plants alive, like me.
Is it quite refreshing to do something completely different to your studies?
Yeah it’s good, because I didn’t want to lose that creative side I had from school, and I’m glad I’ve continued with it throughout uni. After a full day at uni (and if I’ve done all my uni work) I’ll come home and just relax by doing some embroidery. I can be doing it for three or four hours and the time will just fly; and it feels more productive than just watching a series or something, although sometimes I’ll watch a series while I’m embroidering. The other day I was watching The Handmaid’s Tale while I was stitching and I felt like I was Serena Joy – it can seem pretty domestic sometimes.
What kind of clothes do you like to embroider on? Hopefully nothing like the handmaid’s robes…
I really like op shopping and I always find second-hand things to embroider on, mostly shirts. A while ago I bought these hot pink pants and thought they would be so cool to use, but at the moment they’re just folded away – they’re pretty obnoxious. So if you know anyone that needs some festival pants, let me know. I can’t really be bothered with hyped-up festival outfits; I always just end up wearing the same thing.
Oh me too! And my clothes are so worn out, can I start sending them to you to fix?
I’m actually like a really bad stitcher in general, like if I had a hole in something, I wouldn’t know what to do. I wouldn’t do a proper nice neat sew, I’d just do whatever. I have a sewing machine but I’ve never learnt to use it properly. I actually only know two stitching techniques, normal stitching and French knots. But I don’t really think you need to know a lot, it’s more about the blending.
Well you’re obviously quite talented if you’re featuring in RAW. Can you tell us about that?
It’s a showcase of all different independent artists; musicians, make-up artists, painters, photographers, and other people who make handmade things. It’s a one-night exhibition/ market in the beginning of November. One of my friends who’s a photographer got asked to do it last year, but he said no because you have to sell 20 tickets, and he didn’t think he knew that many people who would go. I was like ‘Hmm I don’t know if I can either,’ but I’m giving it a go. My boyfriend’s really excited about it at least.
RAW is on November 1st at Burnside Ballroom, 6.30pm. For more details go to rawartists.com/ restitched, or check out Shalina’s work at @_restitched
Interview and photography by Annabel Bowles
This piece was originally published in Edition 31.